Monday, 9 November 2009

DDA return to Eaglesfield Park and Oxleas Wood

This is a retrospective bit of blogging as we had problems with our broadband connection last night and I couldn't upload any material.

So here is an upsum for the weekends activity at Eaglesfield Park and Oxleas Wood.

We opened up the trenches on Friday while our colleagues from Archaeophysica and their Certificate and MA students from Birkbeck College, were still working on the Geophysical Survey of the south east quadrant of Eaglesfield.  This was as part of a training course, but designed to complement the DDA Research Programme by extending the survey which proved so fruitful last year.  We also wanted to show the Birkbeck students that the work they do has a result in real world research driven archaeology.

It was also a real bonus that Roger Ward was able to come down on Friday afternoon and show the students how Ethical Metal Dectorists [EMD's to borrow Roger's acronym] working under archaeological supervision can make a valyuable contribution to fieldwork.  Metal Detecting is after all just another Geophysical Technique.

DDA's intention was to check the Zig Zag Trench we identified from a crop mark and in the Geophysics and try to confirm its dimensions and whether it had a formal, step down enterence.  We also wanted to check the relationship between the Zig Zag and the north south linear crop mark running across the Park and which was even more clear in the wetter soil conditions and low angle sun light of November.

With those research questions in mind we opened up two trenches at either end of the Zig Zag supervised by Chris at the east end and Cat at the west end of the feature. 

We will be reporting on these properly in the Archive Report for Eaglesfield, but like football [and we won't talk about the Charlton Athletic Northwich Victoria result in the FA Cup] it was a game of two halves and here I should also say the archaeology at Eaglesfield is tricky to dig with most of the contexts consisting of redeposited local sand and gravel where it is very hard to pick up features.

Chris's trench produced no clearly recordable slit trench at all, however there were some colour changes in the section and a post hole packed with Victorian period London Stock Brick.  After we re-checked the Victorian mapping for Eaglesfield we suspect the linear may be a Victorian Field Boundary which may have been fenced or hedged, hence the crop mark.  On the whole though, the relationship between these features and the precise nature of the linear is still debatable.

Cat's trench on the other hand produced-  well the trench, or at least one clear edge of it and probably the base.  There were clearly identifiable dumped deposits of foreign material from the back filling of the trench and some interesting vignettes of WW2 life in concrete.  Namely the concrete moulding of the base of a tin bucket and a concrete coping stone with the remains of an iron rail which seems to have been cut off with a gas torch, possibly during the salvage campaign early in WW2.  We also found more batteries, steel ropes and elsewhere on the site, one copper alloy ring which may be from the handling system of the Barrage Balloons.

We were also able to do some field walking around the site with a view to setting out some future research targets and that produced some interesting discussion, especially when we were joined on Sunday afternoon by Victor Smith from Kent County Council and New Tavern Fort, Gravesend and his colleague Phillip who has been researching the defences of the north west Thames Estuary.

It is beginning to look as though Eaglesfield was possibly employed as an anti tank stop on Anti Invasion Stop Line B in 1940-42.  The Natural Topography, coupled with some human interventions such as the terracing in of the road leading to a c3m Fall between the road surface and Eaglesfield Meadow, lends itself to this function and we know from contemporary documents that when the Stop Line system was laid out natural obstacles were used as much as possible.  If this is what happened then we will be examining the latest Geophysics with great care, because such obstacles would only be useful if covered by fire from the defending Regulars and Home Guard which could well mean prepared trenches and gun positions across the north south axis of the Park. 

All in all it has been a really useful weekend and we were also lucky with the weather, particularly on Saturday, which helped moral.  Also good for moral was the steady stream of people, young and old, who came over to talk to us and share information.  By a happy accident of TV scheduling the Time Team programme Rod and I were involved in making in 2007, Blitzkrieg on Shooters Hill, was shown again on Channel 4 last week so the whole subject was again fresh in the mind of the wider Shooters Hill community.

So as ever David Thorpe and I want to place the credit where it is really due...

Thanks to the Trench Supervisors: Cat and Chris.

Rod: Safety Officer and Photography.

The Fieldwork Team:  Michael, Stuart, Sam, Odette [finds and food] and James, not to mention Martin [Chris's Flat Mate who came by to help us back fill].

Guy sorted out the Standing Buildings aspect of the weekend which means we will now be able to report on an interesting group of surviving air raid shelters and an interesting very early Cold War Civil Defence Bunker.

Steve Maguire of our friends at the 10th Essex, brought his stove and provided coffee and sustenance [especially welcome to the carnivores on the team] and was joined on Sunday by son Robbie.

...and of course we have to thank the London Borough of Greenwich Parks and Open Spaces Department for letting us work at Eaglesfield in the first place.  This whole project and its various related spin offs are showing again and again what a fruitful partnership can be made when we as archaeologists share ideas and work with all the people who have a commitment to an area a landscape and a shared history. 

Now we have the results from this weekend we can complete the archive report on this years work at Eaglesfield which we will post this as soon as it is available; as well as lodging copies with the various public archives.  In the meantime please keep in touch with us via the Blog or the Facebook Group.

Our colleagues from the Great Arab Revolt Project including a number of the DDA Eaglesfield Team, are off to Jordan next week to carry out this years season of Fieldwork on sites associated with the WW1 campaigns in the Jordanian desert involving the Arab tribes, the Ottoman Turks and the British Army and RFC including T E Lawrence.  We would like to wish them a safe and successful trip-  you can follow their activities on the GARP Blog which you can link to from this site.